Student Finance

Guide to Student Finance in Scotland 2016

Planning to study in Scotland? Our quick-start guide to undergrad fees and funding reveals how much you’ll need – and how to get your hands on extra cash.Student standing at a crossroads

It would be great if the UK had a single system of university fees and funding to keep things simple but, unfortunately, each country has its own raft of complex rules and funding. Perhaps they like the extra paperwork.

To cut through the confusion, we’ve produced this handy guide to how much an undergrad degree will cost you in Scotland. If you want to really get the most for your money, take a look at the Big Fat Guide to Student Finance when you're done here for more insider tips, tricks and hidden funding!

Scottish degrees in a nutshell


  • Unlike the rest of the UK, most Scottish degrees are 4 years long
  • Most first-time students can get funding to pay for university – you won’t need to pay for everything up-front
  • Students from Scotland and the EU can study for free in Scotland (the government picks up the tab for tuition)
  • There's free cash for living costs for Scottish students in the form of bursaries and grants
  • If you opt for the Student Loan, you only start repaying it once you've left your course and are earning enough (and if your income drops, so will your repayments)
  • Any Loan you haven’t cleared after 35 years (25-30 years in the rest of the UK) is written off
  • Student Finance may not go as far as you think it will. Get a clear idea of the costs, and how you’ll cover them: this page will help!

How much are tuition fees in Scotland?

Coffee beans in espresso cupThe good news is that first-time Scottish/EU students don’t usually pay a bean towards tuition fees at Scottish universities. If you’re not eligible for the fees waiver, you’re looking at £1,820/yr for an undergrad degree. Part-time fees are on a sliding scale according to how many credits you study.

For students from the Rest of the UK (RUK) – England, Wales and Northern Ireland – and outside the EU, it’s less of a bargain. Full-time RUK fees cost up to £9,000 a year, while international students can be asked to cough up anything from £13,000 to £50k!

It’s also worth knowing that Scottish honours degrees are four years long, and earn you a Master’s qualification. A few institutions offer accelerated courses, which get you in and out in 3 years (say goodbye to vacations!). Alternatively, a ‘general’ (non-honours) degree takes just three years, but isn’t as specialised. Suss it out before you plump for a cheaper or faster route – make sure you’re getting the degree you want!

What other costs are there?

Blank paper with pen and glassesLiving costs are the big one. Regardless of what funding you can lay hands on, you’ll need to allow extra cash to cover rent, bills, transport, food and – unless you plan on not leaving the library for the next four years – fun. Take a look at the costs breakdown, or see what students spend their cash on.

You may also have extra course costs – things like lab kit, field trips, presentation and work experience. That’s on top of stuff like stationery, printing, photocopying, any exam fees and kitting yourself out in graduating robes.

Either way, stick all your estimated costs into a budget planner to avoid stressful surprises later on: we’ve got your back right here.

How to pay for university

Who hands out the cash?

Pink stuffed pig on white background.

Each part of the UK sets its own criteria on who can get funding. At a pinch, to get the full monty of Scottish fees and maintenance swag you'll need to be a UK national, have lived in Scotland for at least 3 years, and not previously started a degree.

EU students can also apply for the Tuition Loan, with limited support for others from the EEA or who have refugee status.

Contact Student Finance or ask your uni if you're not sure where you stand!

International students generally aren't eligible for UK Student Finance, but check the deets for yourself. Get in touch with relevant Student Finance body, or contact the uni in question.

Fee waivers and tuition loans


Students from Scotland

Most students won’t have to pay anything for tuition fees because the Scottish government stumps up the cash for you: full- and part-timers studying at a Scottish university can get off Scot-free thanks to a fees waiver. The money doesn't have to be repaid, but check with SAAS for the details and eligibility.

The sting in the tail: if you want to study elsewhere in the UK, you’ll forfeit your free fees cash, and can be charged up to £9,000 a year for your course. That doesn’t mean you have to slap down any money straight away, though. If you’re eligible for Student Finance, you can get a Tuition Loan, which you don’t have to pay back until you’ve left your course and are earning enough.

Fancy studying in Europe?

  • The Portability Pilot lets you use the Tuition Loan to study at one of five universities in Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The scheme’s currently being trialled – hence the ‘catchy’ name – but any Loan you get now is guaranteed until your course finishes.
  • You can also study at a number of EU universities that don’t charge UK students tuition at all. Read our guide to studying in Europe for the deets.

EU students

Study in Scotland and you can take advantage of the same deal on free tuition or the fees loan as local students.

Unfortunately, that’s as far as cash support goes – you’ll need to find money for living or other costs elsewhere.

Students from the rest of the UK

If you’re eligible for Student Finance, you can take your Loan to any UK university. While that won’t make any difference to the £9k a year sucker punch, it does mean you’ve got far less to pay up-front. Head here for insider secrets on Student Loans, or go chat with your funding body.

Maintenance money

Brown wallet in G-clampSAAS, the Student Finance body for Scotland, has two cash pots going for full-time undergrads from Scotland.

The first is the Bursary – money which doesn't have to be paid back. There’s also a Maintenance Loan, which does have to be repaid later on.

Getting your hands on either is income dependent – i.e., on how much you or your folks earn. How much you can ask for also depends on if you’re classed as a ‘young student’ (under 25 and not financially responsible for yourself or others) or an ‘independent student’.

The cash is paid directly into your bank account (make sure you've got one!) in instalments. Making it last between payments is down to you, so don't blow it on highlighter pens and bargain booze in Fresher's Week …

Here’s how much young students can currently apply for:

Household incomeBursaryLoanTotal
£0 to £18,999£1,875£5,750£7,625
£19,000 to £23,999£1,125£5,750£6,875
£24,000 to £33,999£500£5,750£6,250

Worth knowing:

  • While independent students can get some maintenance cash, there’s less up for grabs – and there's no Bursary once you hit £17k in household income.
  • Part-timers can’t ask for any maintenance funding at all (but check out the extra funding sources below).
If you’re a student from elsewhere in the UK, maintenance loans and any grants going will be dished out by your own Student Finance body: what's on offer will vary from what we've listed here.

Paying back the Loan

Girl on bed with laptop and smartphoneOnce you take out a Student Loan, you don't need to worry about repaying the money until you've left your course … or do you? Here's what else counts.

First-up, you should know that the Loan starts brewing interest from day 1 and until you clear the final payment (or the Loan’s wiped off), so you’ll end up owing more than you actually borrowed. What interest you're charged, and when and how much you start repaying, depends on which part of the UK loans you the money.

The interest rate for Student Loans in Scotland is currently set at 0.9% per year: pretty low, all things considered – and much lower  than commercial loans.

You don't start repaying your Loan until you've left your course and earn more than £17,495/year (or around £1,450 a month) in taxable income.

Once you hit the threshold, repayments are automatically docked from your wages before you get paid (unless you're self-employed, in which case it's calculated when you sort out your tax each year). Either way, you pay 9% on anything you earn above the threshold (not your whole salary!).

Crucially, if your income falls below the threshold at any time, repayments stop until you're back over the line.

Here’s what your monthly repayments could look like (remember these are just guide figures!):

Yearly salaryPlan 2 monthly repayments


You can choose to pay extra towards your Loan, or pay it off in full at any time – but whether it's worth it needs some sussing out! The way repayments work right now, the more you go on to earn, the more you'll pay back towards your Loan. By the same token, the less you earn, the less you'll pay back. That means there's a chance you may not clear your full Loan amount through salary repayments – and then anything not paid back after 35 years is automatically written on.

Loan repayment can be a ‘mare to get your mind round, but we've made it as simple as possible in our Loans Lowdown. Take a look before you take one out (or turn your nose up!).

What else is going?

Pug dressed as ETUK students have access to extra support for specific circumstances. In Scotland that includes:

  • Lone Parents' Grant for help with childcare costs (usually on a first-come, first-served basis!)
  • Adult Dependants' Grant if you're financially responsible for another adult you live with
  • Disabled Students’ Allowance for specialist equipment or a non-medical helper, plus travel expenses if you can't use public transport
  • Travel expenses for health profession courses
  • Vacation grant for care leavers
  • Funding for Nursing and Midwifery courses in Scotland: non-repayable bursary, £60 in initial expenses, plus maintenance support for special circumstances.

Start with your country’s Student Finance portal to find out what exactly's on offer where you are (and how to get your mitts on it) – but remember there's plenty in the pot if you know where to look:

  • Uni bursaries and scholarships, plus hardship funds for students who might struggle to afford uni (or to get by once they're there)
  • Business sponsorships, government incentives and charity funds
  • Course-specific support, including for teacher training and social work.

It’s also worth talking to your university – they'll have dedicated advisers who can point you in the direction of travel grants, discounts, scholarships, or moral support. A student money advisor can also help you get to grips with the ins and outs of student funding, and managing the cash once you get it.

Grants, scholarships, bursaries and allowances usually don't have to be paid back. Loans do!

8 tips for making the most of uni cash

Lightbulb doodleThe trick to keeping a lid on your Student Debt – and having enough to get by on in the meantime – is planning ahead. Here’s the cheat sheet:

  1. Scout out what Student Finance is on offer sooner rather than later – if the application window's open, you don’t need to wait for your results to apply
  2. If you want SAAS money (loans, grants or bursaries), you’ll need to do the funding dance each year of your course
  3. Take time to see what scholarships and uni funds are on offer – don’t assume you won’t be eligible for anything (or worse, that it’s too much effort!)
  4. Don’t forget charity funds: search the Turn2Us grants calculator to see if your location, gender, nationality, health or anything else makes you eligible for support
  5. Make your own income! Get a part-time job to pay your way, or put your own spin on starting a business.
  6. Find out how the uni doles out emergency cash (sometimes called Hardship Funds). Knowing where it’s kept, and how to get it, will save you the sweats later on.
  7. Get to grips with running your bank account like a pro: a 0% overdraft is a student lifesaver, and beats borrowing from loan sharks or payday loans hands down.
  8. It doesn’t matter how much cash you grab if you can’t keep hold of it. It goes without saying: learn how to make it last!

Got questions? Pop ‘em in a comment below and we’ll tell you what we know!

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